The Western Montana Musicians Co-op in Ronan is gearing up to celebrate its fourth anniversary on Saturday, Nov. 11, and at the same time launch a major fundraising initiative.
Music will begin at 3 p.m. and continue until midnight. Several bands from the area will take turns on stage. The roster includes The Late Bloomers, Mark Chase, Andre Floyd, Don Teschner, Mojo Resurrected, Highway 93, and National Remedy. An All-Star Jam closes the evening.
Also on tap is a silent auction of unique items and experiences. The entrance fee is $5, and wine, beer and food will be available.
This event kicks off a fundraiser aimed at providing affordable music lessons, instruments to those in need, and member scholarships for young people. Additionally, the co-op hopes to secure a permanent home within the next two or three years.
“A joyful experiment”
Musician Doug Ruhman, who co-founded the co-op with Keith Rennie, notes that the co-op’s goal is to bring western Montana together through music.
“It’s a really amazing organization,” he explained. “There are lots of diverse people from all walks of life, with different interests and abilities.”
The WMMC is a member-driven organization since each person pays $25 per month. This modest fee gives them access to the co-op’s space at the Red Poppy, which is equipped with a stage, sound system and an array of instruments.
Members can utilize the space and the instruments to rehearse, teach lessons, or even host a recital.
Each week the doors are open to the public on Friday and Saturday nights. On Friday nights at 7 p.m., it’s open mic night. Single musicians or a band usually come with four or five prepared pieces of music and take the stage to share their talents.
“Our doors are open,” Ruhman said. “The public is welcome to come listen.”
On Saturday night, it’s more of a jam session. “Musicians come and hop up on stage and play together,” said Ruhman.
It’s a joyful experiment each week.”
An aspect of WMMC that’s unusual is that there’s room for beginners, intermediate players and even people who’ve played in bands for years.
When WWMC was created in October 2019, Ruhman said the group wanted a family-friendly location for musicians – “a bar that wasn’t a bar, since there isn’t much live music outside of bars.”
The Red Poppy stage is populated with dozens of instruments, including three drums, lots of percussion, three kinds of keyboards, various guitars, as well as professional lighting and a state-of-the-art sound system.
Over the years, WMMC has become a place for musicians to gather and a way for people to connect. COVID actually helped keep the co-op alive, Ruhman said, by providing a much-needed place to gather.
The group has just recently added a dance floor. Their hope is people will come and dance and have fun, sort of like the old-time country dances at which everyone from grandparents to babies attended, everybody danced, and at midnight “lunch” was served.
The WMMC might not serve a midnight meal, but people have come out of the woodwork, Ruhman said. He had no idea the group would have so many people interested. So naturally the co-op wants to continue growing.
To support the cooperative in achieving its goals, community members are encouraged to become sponsors at various levels: Member ($25), Headliner ($100), Maestro ($250), Rockstar ($500), or Legend ($1000+). Donations are tax-deductible up to 92%, and contributions can be made through PayPal, by mail to WMMC Treasurer, 311663 Rocky Point Road, Polson, MT 59860, or in person during the anniversary celebration. For more info, visit westmtmusiccoop.com.
– Berl Tiskus